American Bandstand and KCET?

American Bandstand | Photo by Cathy Bower 1988

KCET is celebrating its 50th anniversary year with a series of stories, reflections, and flashbacks, like this throwback below. For more and to participate in our next 50 years, join us at

"American Bandstand" was not a KCET production, but since the staff of KCET had the honor to shoot its final season, it's worthy of a post.

Dick Clark needed a new home for "Bandstand" when ABC dropped him and he went into syndication back in the fall of 1987. He came to KCET with the proposition that we build his set on our huge Stage B at out Sunset Boulevard lot. The thing was massive, with three levels for the kids to dance on. We called it the jungle gym, and due to the fact that the Whittier quake had just recently occurred, we always worried about it. We especially were worried about the kids if another earthquake happened while they were dancing. Luckily, no earthquakes struck while we were taping the shows on those Saturdays.

Dick Clark and the Dancers - American Bandstand | Photo by Cathy Bower 1988

The shows were shot on one Saturday a month and we did four shows each time. We had a break at the halfway point for lunch and other than that, we pretty much worked non-stop (minus the union breaks, of course).

I worked two jobs for this show: I loaded the electronic graphics for the credit roll ahead of time and then, when taping time came, I pulled cable for the floor camera, who was usually Luis Fuerte of "California's Gold" fame. It was a difficult camera to handle, because the kids were all in the way, dancing their hearts out and totally oblivious to the cable that was attached to that camera that they wanted to get in front of.

Dick Clark was all over the place, as producer of the show and talent in front of the camera, and it showed. He would be putting out some fire, like the script not being right or the reset not going as fast as expected, and then he would suddenly have to be in front of the camera, a smile on his face. I did not envy his job. Dick Clark's wife, Kari, was a very nice person and a pleasure to work with. You could tell they were a good team, because she helped with whatever needed to be done, to keep things running smoothly.

This Week on 'Visiting With Huell Howser' -- Getty Villa, Stan's Donuts and Jacaranda Trees

Find out what classic episodes of "Visiting" are airing on KCET this week! Read more about KCET's Huell-centric programming here and share your memories of Huell with other fans here.

Monday @ 7:30PM -- "Getty Villa"

In 1945, J. Paul Getty acquired a Malibu retreat. Today, this spot includes a Romanesque gallery full of priceless art. Huell also tours the property's historically accurate ancient Roman crop garden.

Tuesday @ 7:30PM -- "Stan's Donuts"

For almost 40 years, Stan's Corner Donut Shop of Westwood, California, has baked the world's most gourmet donuts. From a Cinnamon Chocolate Cheese Danish to an Apple Fritter to a Reese's Peanut Butter Pocket with fresh banana. Stan's offers donuts you will find nowhere else in the world.

Finding California's Gold... in California Food

KCET is celebrating its 50th anniversary year with a series of stories, reflections, and flashbacks, like this throwback below. For more and to participate in our next 50 years, join us at

I am a broadcaster.

Consequently, each April, I find myself crossing the desert, on my way to Las Vegas and the National Association of Broadcasters convention. This particular trip brought about a dilemma: Where to stop for food on our way back? Our usual go-to location, Bun Boy in Baker, had closed. Instead, what we decided to do is visit Peggy Sue's 50's Diner just north of Barstow at the Yermo Annex.

Peggy Sue's Menu | Photo Cathy Bower

I had been here years ago, and it was basically the same now: The food and the service were top-notch and the music and atmosphere is pure '50s. When I picked up the menu, I saw that there was a menu item called the "Huell Howser Hawaiian Honey Ham & Pineapple Cheeseburger." Intrigued, I decided to try it and I was pleased with my purchase. The waitress mentioned that the late Huell Howser, would stop by quite often in his travels and he even owned the infamous Volcano House in nearby Newberry Springs.

New Series 'Father Brown' Kicks Off KCET's 'Whodunit Sundays'

Any longtime fan of public television will agree that if there must be murder, it should at least be solved by charming British people.

It's on that note that we're proud to present KCET's new Whodunit Sundays, which feature three British murder mystery shows back-to-back-to-back. New series "Father Brown" will be hopping into the 8 p.m. Sunday slot, taking the place of "Foyle's War," and it will be joined by "Inspector George Gently" and "Rosemary and Thyme." That's three rounds of classic detective work -- and enough British accents to satisfy even the biggest Anglophile among us.

This Week on 'Visiting With Huell Howser' -- Governor's Mansion and Ackermansion

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Find out what classic episodes of "Visiting" are airing on KCET this week! Read more about KCET's Huell-centric programming here and share your memories of Huell with other fans here.

Monday @ 7:30PM -- "Governor's Mansion"

Huell gets a behind-the-scenes look at the Governor's Mansion in Sacramento. We'll get a special tour from Kathleen Brown, who lived in the house as a teenager.

Tuesday @ 7:30PM -- "Ackermansion"

Huell takes a special tour of Forrest Ackerman's home, which is a shrine to and museum of sci-fi and horror memorabilia. The self-described inventor of the term "sci-fi," Dr. Ackula (as he liked to be called), boasted over 300,000 items from genre films, books and TV shows. He was also a literary agent, and editor of numerous fanzines. Best of all, he opened his house to the public. (Note: Ackerman passed away in 2008 and the museum is no longer operational.)

KCET -- A Proud History of News, Part Two

Hugh Hewitt, Patt Morrison, Rubén Martinez | Life & Times 1993

KCET is celebrating its 50th anniversary year with a series of stories, reflections, and flashbacks, like this throwback below. For more and to participate in our next 50 years, join us at

In January of 1992, we launched "Life & Times." It ran for 15 straight years, through some of the most turbulent times in Los Angeles. The show was designed by Jim Kennedy, who was a wonderful man. I remember him presenting his idea for the show to us on staff. We would have news on Monday and Friday and taped pieces on Tuesday through Thursday. The original hosts for the "in studio" episodes were Hugh Hewitt, Patt Morrison and John Ochoa. Almost immediately, our new show went through its baptism of fire. The L.A. Riots started in April of 1992 and around that time, Rubén Martinez joined the team. I remember that the news show went live daily, trying to make sense of the chaos. It was a extremely hard time for our hosts and our new production team, but they kept plugging away. We had our own problems during those riots, because KCET's lot was located right across the street from the Circuit City that got looted. It was not easy staying on the air, or for that matter, having access to the lot itself. Like the City of L.A., we all managed to make it through that time.

'Borgen' Wins a Peabody Award

All those anxious Danish faces should have reason to look happy, because "Borgen" has won a Peabody Award! It was announced on Wednesday that the Danish-produced political drama, whose second season is currently airing in the U.S. on KCET and on Link TV, had won. Among other series lauded this year were "Breaking Bad," the Netflix remake of "House of Cards," "Orange Is the New Black," "Scandal," and "Orphan Black." See the full list of winners here.

Tune in to the next episode of "Borgen" on KCET on Monday at 10 p.m. And catch up with the previous two episodes on here. Haven't started watching yet? Get up to speed with our recaps for the whole series.

Everything You Need to Know About 'Stand Up Planet'

So what is this show about?

"Stand Up Planet" is a documentary TV show and digital series that showcases life in some of the toughest places on Earth through the lens and experiences of stand-up comics. Hollywood comedian Hasan Minhaj takes you to bustling Mumbai and India to meet up-and-coming comedians. Their humor helps you learn about their homelands in striking ways. It's equal parts reality TV, documentary and travelogue. Check out the trailer to see Minhaj and the other comedians in action:

KCET -- A Proud History of News, Part One

Jeffrey Kaye and Clete Roberts | KCET Newsbeat

KCET is celebrating its 50th anniversary year with a series of stories, reflections, and flashbacks, like this throwback below. For more and to participate in our next 50 years, join us at

KCET has had a proud news history of reporting news. My personal knowledge goes back only to "28 Tonight," but this tradition went all the way back to the start. KCET has always taken news very seriously and continues to do so under our current president, Al Jerome. As a matter of fact, our new season of "SoCal Connected" is gearing up as I write this post, so I thought I'd take a look back at a few of those shows, many of which have featured Val Zavala, KCET's Vice President of News & Public Affairs as well as the longtime anchor of "SoCal Connected," in integral roles.

"28 Tonight"
In the late 70s, KCET had "28 Tonight," which lasted from around 1976 until 1981. I think they may have shot the remote pieces on film, until we finally got some video remote cameras in the late 70s. Because I wasn't working at the station at that point, it is hard for me to pinpoint when we did the switch over to tape. What I do know is I saw reels and reels of news footage in our vaults when I arrived. As with most news shows that we do, "28 Tonight" was usually a hybrid between a live in-studio segment and the remote taped pieces. Clete Roberts was a part of that studio team for "28 Tonight," as I mentioned in my post on The Flying Wing story.

"KCET Newsbeat with Clete Roberts"
1981 brought along a huge increase in production funding, and so "KCET Newsbeat with Clete Roberts" was created. It lasted until June 1982, when it was canceled due to the financial disaster and a lack of funds. It was live five days a week and then on Fridays, we also shot a show called "L.A. Week in Review" that caught viewers up on the news of the week. Reporter Jeffrey Kaye was one of the studio reporters and he went on to do other shows for us and eventually to join the "MacNeil/Lehrer Newshour" as their L.A. reporter.

Huell Howser's Videologs

At a get-together we had after the death of Huell Howser, former KCET station manager Stephen Kulczycki said he came to Los Angeles to begin rebuilding our news presence after the financial disaster. He arrived in 1983 and began to look for things he could do with a small budget. One of the first things he did was hire Huell Howser, who had wanted to move on from KNXT, where he was shooting little "Happy News" pieces. He brought his idea to KCET and Stephen hired him in 1985, to make the now-famous Videolog fillers. These aired throughout our schedule, to give us an inexpensive local presence. (Read more about the Videologs here.)

Stephen created a quarterly news show called "KCET Journal" that did one-hour, in-depth documentaries about subjects of interest. During the mid-80s we produced "Turning Points," in which we followed someone at a critical point in their life. One installment profiled a young mother deciding whether to keep her baby or give it up for adoption. It was a novel concept. Jon Wilkman, the producer of "Turning Points," also worked on a three-year history series called "The Los Angeles History Project." William Mulholland, Central Avenue and Harris Newmark's Los Angeles were among the subjects covered. KCET produced a total of 12 episodes.

"California Stories" and "7:30" came along in 1988. "California Stories" was a half-hour show that dealt with a wide range of subjects, including arts and science stories. Roger Bingham, Teya Ryan, Peter Graumann, were some of the producer/reporters who worked on shows. "7:30," meanwhile, gave us back a five-minute nightly news presence at 7:30 p.m. each evening.

In July of 1989 "California Stories" ended and morphed into little daily pieces called "Take Five." There were Take Five Arts" and "Take Five Science," and Huell Howser's shorts became "Take Five Videolog." This addition gave Videolog a set time to air, which helped Huell get more regular viewership and ratings for the first time. I am sure it helped him get traction with his idea for a show that he pitched to the other California stations later on that year. That show would be "California's Gold".

"By the Year 2000"
The late 80s brought about a novel idea for a news show. "By the Year 2000" was news, but it was news that was designed to show things that would be issues in the new millennium: for example, population growth, housing prices, demographic changes, air quality. All the things that Southern California would be facing, over the next decade. Val Zavala and Eric Burns were the hosts of the show. Shortly thereafter, Eric Burns left and Joseph Benti came on board and what a great addition to the team, he was. Joseph Benti was a wonderful person, and I remember him with great fondness.

As I am going back through the years, it's the people who I have worked with and the ones I work with now who are the reason why I come here every day. I have personally had the pleasure of working with some of the absolute best in the business and I wouldn't trade it for anything.

I'll cover the rest of KCET's news history in a follow-up to this piece. I hope you stick around, as I bring you our longest-running news program, "Life & Times," and more!

This is another in a series of posts in which Cathy Bower, KCET's broadcast operations coordinator, looks back at some interesting moments and events during the station's 50 years on the air. Read more entries here.

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